Brexit: Bells and bunting, or shedding a tear – how will you mark it?

Big Ben clock face showing 11 o'clock Image copyright AFP

For some British people, 23:00 GMT on 31 January is a moment that can’t come soon enough. For others, it’s something they hoped they would never see.

But whatever your opinions about Brexit, the official time that the UK makes its exit from the European Union is almost upon us.

Will it be celebrations or commiserations? Here, four people explain how they are feeling ahead of the landmark event, and how they are planning to mark the occasion.

Game soup, bunting and Land of Hope and Glory…

Pub owner Rob Hancock, 64, runs the Robin Hood pub in his hometown of Boston, Lincolnshire.

Image copyright Rob Hancock
Image caption Rob Hancock is from Boston, which recorded the highest leave vote in the UK, with 75.6%

Everybody just can’t believe it’s finally happening. We’ve been waiting for what feels like 10 years. We never even thought we would get a referendum.

I just don’t know how I’m going to fit everyone inside the pub!

We’re putting up some banners and union jack bunting – only inside, we don’t want to incite any problems. We’ve got a disco from 8pm.

At 11pm, we’re going to ring our bell, which is an old ship’s bell, and then play Land of Hope and Glory.

Then we’ll carry on the celebrations, which will include game soup – a local speciality of partridge and pheasant, along with some crusty rolls.

There will be a lot of events around the country but in Boston, as far as I know, nobody else has put their head above the parapet.

For us it’s a benchmark. It’s a time to celebrate because it’s a day when we feel we’ve got our country back.

But the strange thing is we will have Europeans at the party. We’ve got a lot of Lithuanian friends, Latvian friends etc, and they know exactly where we’re coming from.

They understand intrinsically how we feel – it’s not us and them. There’ll be a lot here on the night celebrating with us.

People can live here with us, we have no problem with that whatsoever, but we can’t lose our soul and identity.

‘I’ll light a candle and shed a tear’

Student Kirsty Law, 35, lives in Greenock, Inverclyde, with her French partner.

Image copyright Kirsty Law
Image caption Kirsty Law, who lives just outside Glasgow, feels Scotland’s voice has been ignored

As Brexit day approaches I feel an overwhelming sadness.

I am being abused online for daring to feel this way, which further demonstrates to me that the whole thing has unleashed an ugliness in our society that maybe always existed but had been dormant – certainly in my lifetime.

I can’t imagine a time when I would feel joy at others misery.

Brexit has affected my life in many ways. Symptoms of grief have taken over me, particularly since the general election when, for the first time, my eternal optimism that things will turn out OK was crushed.

The EU is personal for me.

My partner is French and without freedom of movement we would never have met. The idea that he has “been treating this place like home for too long” has cut deep in me, because it is his home.

However, it has also given me a desire for knowledge and encouraged me to return to full-time education to study politics.

I am not naive in thinking the institution itself is perfect. Like everything political it has its good points and parts I disagree with, but it stood for peace and co-operation through Europe, which is an ideal that is hard to argue with. Or so I thought!

On Friday evening, I am spending time with my family. I will light a candle and spend a moment alone in quiet reflection at 11pm and will, no doubt, shed a tear.

My message to the EU is simple – please leave a light on for us. I hope one day we can rejoin.

‘I’m celebrating with some English fizz’

Lee Smith, 28, lives in Bury, Greater Manchester.

Image caption Lee Smith will be waiting patiently at home for the clock to strike 11pm

I am very excited for Brexit day. After waiting for so long, we are finally getting our democratic vote enacted, which is a massive relief because I have felt real worry for our democratic process since 2016.

Having never lived in an independent sovereign UK, that excites me the most – being self-governing and being the creators of our own destiny is the main reason I voted to leave.

While I know for some it will be a sombre moment when the clock hits 11pm this Friday, for me it is going to be a proud moment.

I will be at home with my partner – who is as excited as me – watching various news channels and coverage of the various celebrations taking place and waiting patiently for the clock to hit 11pm.

I shall mark that historic moment with a nice bottle of English bubbly and I will wave the union flag from the side of my house for that entire day.

And, depending on how much tipple I’ve had, I might entertain my partner with a pretty awful rendition of our national anthem.

‘It’s like a bereavement’

Semi-retired university lecturer Anne Hernandez, 66, lives in Malaga but is originally from Hertfordshire.

Image copyright Anne Hernandez
Image caption Anne Hernandez has lived in Spain for more than 30 years

It really pains me to think about it, it’s a horrible wrench.

There are some people – my daughter, for example, who is 36 – they’ve never known any different. They are an EU citizen through and through, to suddenly lose your sense of identity is a horrible feeling.

She’s never known not being a EU citizen. To think that all of those rights that we’ve acquired are gone – it’s awful.

I initially compared it to a wake. It’s like a bereavement, not something you want to celebrate, or even commemorate or remember.

A lot of the British people I know are extremely upset, they don’t want it to happen. Some are going to spend the day in bed, some are going out to have a little drink with some Spanish friends.

I haven’t got any plans. I suspect I will be at home, but I’m certainly not going out to celebrate.

Trepidation – that’s how I’m feeling. It’s not something I ever wanted to see happen, but I have to accept it’s going to.

I hope it isn’t what I think it will be, I’ll be the first one to say I’m sorry I was wrong, but the writing is on the wall.

My passport is British, I have British nationality, but my heart will always be with the European Union.



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